This has been a very busy start of the year for me. I fulfilled some personal objectives and made an effort to be social, not just online but in person. To this goal, I attended two very different conferences, SXSWi (South by Southwest Interactive) in March, and BlogHer Business (BHB) at the beginning of April. I got done with SXSWi, and while it wasn’t perfect, I was happy that I went there. That is, until I went to BHB and saw what a conference could and should be.
Don’t get me wrong – a lot of people GET SWSW and what they’re trying to accomplish. I heard many times that I shouldn’t expect too much from the sessions, and SXSW is “all about the hallways.” But why did I come out of those 4 days feeling like I had wasted a lot of time, after spending 2 incredibly productive days with the BlogHer crowd? Three main areas of comparison come to mind:
Sessions - At SXSW, I got the feeling that a lot of them were winging it. The session I always come back to as the best example of “phoning it in”, literally and figuratively, is the one on creative mobile content that featured Jeremiah Owyang, Chris Heuer and Chris Brogan. These are thought leaders, people who have blogs I follow religiously and often quote in my own dealings. No offense guys, but your session was useless. Essentially, they broke the audience up and took us out of the room to “create”. My group stood in the Bloghaus while Jerimiah talked with someone into what looked like a tape recorder. I didn’t get any perspective into why he was asking the questions that he was (if he even was asking questions). I got the feeling that Chris Heuer was trying harder, but still, it wasn’t working for me. I didn’t see Brogan, so I can’t say what he was or wasn’t doing. When you put the thought leaders of social media in a room, you expect more. I got really angry when I realized that I was missing Kathy Sierra’s session, and after about 10 minutes of staring at this, I headed to Kathy’s well-prepared session (and learned a ton).
In contrast, all of the BlogHer Business sessions were focused, information packed, and productive. Plus, they run on time! Speakers spend a great time planning what they are going to say, whether they have powerpoints or not. Moderators add value by directing the conversation and adding their own viewpoints where appropriate. In the two days at BHB, I got enough inspiration to last me at least a year. Until I next BH event, I suppose!
Focus – SXSW is huge, and offers a lot for more than just me. So, truth be told, you may be an interactive designer, or some other field than marketing and really would get more out of SXSW that I can. BHB is totally focused on me and what I do – it’s for marketers, PR folks, advertisers and the like. For that reason alone, I found myself at home there.
Socialization – OK, so SXSW is all about the hallways. But I have to tell you, I made more connections, and more valuable connections at BHB in 2 hours of meet and greet than I did in all my time at SXSW. I’ll pull BHB’s hallways up against SXSW’s any day.
I’m sure I’m opening myself up to some flaming and negative comments, but BlogHer Business was such an amazing and productive meeting for me, and I really wanted to give Jory, Elisa, Lisa and Kristy some love for making that happen. I also want people to know for next year, when I have a choice, I’m going to BHB and skipping SXSW. Anyone looking to better understand women bloggers and learn how to make connections with them cannot afford to miss BHB.
Soapbox dismounted. Flame away.